What this hard won peace means to me – an ordinary Sri Lankan woman

This peace that Sri Lanka’s armed forces have wrested from the diabolically cruel and persistent Tiger leader and his cadres equates itself in me to gratitude, relief, joy, hope and trepidation, yes, doubtful fear.

Joy there is but no jubilation since this latter term means triumph and exaltation and connotes selfish exuberance. This is not what is needed at this hour but dignity and determination to move forwards. Of course the armed forces under able guidance have triumphed but my feelings end with joy and do not proceed to the extravagance of jubilation because of the thousands dead of our people, whether Sinhalese or Tamil, and the untold suffering of the very many.


Gratitude to every Sri Lankan soldier, sailor, airman and policeman who gave of their sweat and blood, limbs and life to save the country and its people – Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim and other races - from a megalomaniac who dreamt the impossible dream of a separate state for the Tamils in this dot of an island. It was proven beyond doubt that Prabhakaran’s sticking to his guns, both metaphorically and literally, was for his own ends: to rule a kingdom and pass it on to his sons. No loyalty to the Tamil cause (there is no such cause really) nor to his fellow fighters ruled his decision to go on fighting at such heavy cost to both Tamils and Sinhalese – the fighters on both sides, their families and the entire citizenry of the island. His was overvaulting hubris and stubbornness. At the end he showed cowardice too – running away when defeat was imminent; this man who elevated self-destruction to nobility, albeit dubious. (The latest tidbit is he did not have a cyanide pill strung around his neck).

Ironic, to say the least, that it was he who engineered his nemesis’ victory in the presidential polls, by forbidding Tamils to vote, for their mandate was surely Ranil’s.

Gratitude in abundance to the President and his brother the Defense Secretary, and to the commanders of the four armed forces. I cannot but extend gratitude to Muralitharan (Karuna) and S Chandrakanthan who, by defecting from the LTTE, drove the first nail into the Tiger coffin. These two I acknowledge fully for giving up terrorism and entering mainstream politics. Wish they’d go further and disarm the remaining militant cadres in the east. Gratitude also to those like Dayan Jayatilleke, Rajiva Wijesinha and Palitha Kohona who countered LTTE propaganda effectively and demonstrated that clear thinking intellectuals too saw the utterly flawed ideology of the LTTE leader.


Utter and merciful relief that after 26 long wearying years guns are silenced; light Tiger planes loaded with bombs destroyed; suicide bombers a shocker of the past (very hopefully) and ordinary people, especially in the north, able to live without fear. The threatened villages need no longer be threatened and the refugees can hope for settlement in safe homes in their familiar areas. A nephew tells me that a friend commented that of all the refugees of the recent past – from earthquakes, Gaza Strip and Swat/Pakistan, ours look the worst off. The man who made the comment must be truthful since he belongs to an aid agency and he’s worked in disaster areas. Our IDPs have been kept in near starvation; constant fear, and escaping, came under fire. Maybe the shocking condition is due to their having suffered for long years, whereas the refugees of other disasters, shelling included, led ordinary lives till almost the day their catastrophe struck.

I value relief from the constant bombardment of the senses from news read and viewes of bombings, shooting, death, mutilation and destruction, and the steady and relentless eroding of resources, human more especially. Can you imagine the relief felt by mothers able to send their children to school again without fear of abduction? Can you imagine the relief of wives, mothers and sisters of armed forces personnel?


Immeasurable joy that this island of ours is an entity again, a home for all its races. Cartoonist Jeffrey in the Island of Wednesday captured this fact well and truly, a satakaya outlining the island with the lion flag flying within. The President’s pronouncement of the demise of the concept of minorities with the demise of war was one of the highlights of his excellent speech made to Parliament and to the nation. There was joy manifest in the force-feeding (!) of kiribath, the raban playing and flag waving, not to mention the crackers and a palpable feeling of fellowship.

Visit to a certain office to pay a bill on Tuesday morning saw some workers hefting in a huge TV set ‘paid for from petty cash’ just to listen to HE at 9.30 a m. An international school with nationals making up the student body and teaching faculty had the telecast proceedings in Parliament loud-speakered to the entire middle and upper schools with time tables suspended temporarily. Such the significance of the historic event and time of the official announcement of peace.

Joy to know there will be helping hands extended to the poor innocent refugees; that bridges of fellowship will be built among races and that they, the Tamils of the north, will realize they are Sri Lankan and have brothers and sisters among the other races. Remember many of them were born to war and grew up in war with terrible warping of minds.

Joy that we can travel again to Jaffna, where previously were spent our best holidays. We found the Jaffna Tamil so gracious and helpful before the Boys seeded discriminatory thoughts in them and aversion to, if not dread of the Sinhalese. Casuarina Beach was our favourite sea bathing spot; Keeramalai for a communal bath of warm healing water; a picnic at Elephant Pass; a train ride from Jaffna station to KKS. Jaffna toddy was excellent; varaka dripping with honey; kottakelengi good for prolonged chewing. Our sincerest friends were Tamils. An admirer would send a huge box of delicious mangoes and everyone enjoyed them in spite of suspicions as to the intention of the sender! In those good specious times, even die-hard conservative Sinhalese mothers pronounced a marriage of a daughter to a good Tamil was preferable to a Sinhalese of dubious caste or character. (At least one mother pronounced thus!) Hence the mutual respect between the two races, which considered themselves one except having different customs and food habits and worshipping in a vihara instead of a kovil.


Aha! That’s where we are stopped short in our joy. Hope we have for so much, mainly that terrorism will never raise its head again in this country and that the country can move forward to make life better for everyone. Niggling doubts scrabble around the mind like crabs in a confined box. Will our leaders be magnanimous enough to really give a good deal to the Tamil refugees first of all and then to the Tamil people? I will not dwell on the pitfalls here and the innumerable positives easily possible. The planning table has good men sitting around it, we presume. We hope no ultra nationalists will be allowed in. We heard one politician hail Mahinda Rajapakse as supreme king. Sycophancy will be rife since there’s money in the business of rebuilding and rehabilitation. We do NOT want slipper soup drinking again. We expect our President who directed the winning of the war, will direct the expansion of peace and consequent prosperity to be shed all round the island, in all parts of it, for all its people.

(Doubts clouding hope)

Very very sad and disturbing is the fact that you mention a state minister’s name and a chorus will shout: "My-e-e the money he has made!" There’s an on-going competition to name the politician/official who has made the most money which equates itself to greatest degree of corruption. There’s mighty jostling for top place in this long line. We hope against hope there will be a new beginning in politics in the country and that first and foremost corruption will be wiped out and those guilty of making money through position held exposed and dealt with. This is not a probability nor a possibility. So at least let’s hope people will stop collecting corrupt money - they have collected their large loot by now. There can be no winning of confidence of Sri Lankans and development of the country if corruption is not wiped out. That wiping out seems as impossible as eradicating poverty. But a start has to be made. We the people who voted these ministers and deputies to power must be able to say: "He is honest. He is not rich with illegally made money."


Yes, there is mighty trepidation that we could, as a nation, fall from the frying pan into the fire. It seems unthinkable, impossible, uncharitable to even consider it in the euphoria of our winning peace. But it could be. Here again the climbing out from the frying pan into the cool of a safe plate is the responsibility of the powers that be. If the very head is surrounded by yes-men of dubious sincerity; if vultures are on the wing ready to take their pickings; if those who cannot bear to see things going well since they have no place then; if ultra nationalists among all three major races have their say, then we are doomed to worse than war. The war was confined to a part of the island; suffered, sad to say, by a minority caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. But if this chance is missed to select between what’s good for the country and detrimental to it and to act completely altruistically with no consideration of self or political party, the consequences will be worse than Prabhakaran and his waged war.

I think we need to keep in mind what the President said to the nation. We also need to remember the wise words of Podi Haamuduruwo of Gangaramaya Temple. He said we were all one: children of Lanka. He also warned against extravagance of jubilation. He said we need to tighten our belts if the western world withholds financial help. Yes, we will very willingly further tighten our belts, but just the Parliamentarians and the various Provincial Councillors doing it would equate itself very closely, I am sure, to the amount of the IMF loan If expenses are cut down in Parliament and in government offices we should be able to save so much to channel to development.

We need to be dignified in victory, more so those in power, and humble too. And then maybe, Sri Lanka will be able to live unto its promise; Sri Lanka will be enabled to reach its full potential; Sri Lankans will get a better deal and we will all be Sri Lankans primarily and only incidentally Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim, Malay and Burgher.

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